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Michael Gove tells developers he will do ‘whatever it takes’ to ensure they cover cladding costs

The i 20/01/2022 Richard Vaughan

Michael Gove warned the country’s biggest developers that he was willing to do “whatever it takes” to ensure they cover the costs of fixing fire safety defects in buildings during a crunch meeting on Thursday.

The Housing Secretary hosted a roundtable that saw some of the largest developers come face to face with leaseholders who have been affected by dangerous cladding on the outside of their building.

According to those in the room, Mr Gove left the developers “in no doubt about the Government’s intent on this issue”.

One source said the developers heard a “powerful” speech from people who have had their lives significantly disrupted by the issue of internal and external fire safety defects.

“The developers didn’t really push back [against our demands],” the source said, before adding: “We now enter a period of negotiations, but we’re willing to do whatever it takes.”

Speaking before the meeting, Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said that while his organisation agreed leaseholders should not have to pay, “we do not believe it should fall to responsible house-builders to fund the remediation of buildings built by foreign companies, developers no longer trading, or other parties”.

Earlier this month, Mr Gove told MPs he was prepared to hit developers with new taxes or slap them with fines if they do not come up with the cash to fix the dangerous defects.

Several MPs from all parties have raised doubts as to whether the Treasury will back Mr Gove with a new set of taxes on developers if they refuse to cough up. Other members are concerned that the Government’s measures will only fix the issue of dangerous cladding, and not deal with other internal defects.

Tory MP Stephen McPartland told i: “It is vitally important that Michael makes it crystal clear to developers that they must take responsibility for both external and internal fire safety defects. The announcements in Parliament have focused on cladding, which is an external fire safety defect, but developers are responsible for internal fire safety defects also and must be held liable.”

Mr McPartland said defects such as missing fire-breaks must also be included in any compensation plans. “These are vital life-saving measures as they help prevent the spread of fires internally from flat to flat and give the emergency services time to respond,” he added.

The Building Safety Bill, which is due to undergo further scrutiny in the Lords before potentially becoming law, would give a new regulator the power to prosecute rule-breaking developers and take their properties off the market.

It forms part of the Government’s plans to avert a repeat of the Grenfell Tower blaze in North Kensington, London, which killed 72 people in 2017.

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